So, I haven’t managed to get these together for a couple of weeks. Things have been busy, with the result that I have not been discovering new stuff as much as usual. But here is my attempt to climb back on the wagon.
Book: Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
This is a book that has a lot in common with my favorite from last year, Ned Beauman’s Boxer, Beetle. it is about a clockmaker/clockwork repair guy, trying desperately to keep his head down and avoid the legacy of his father’s criminality. His ability to do that it fatally compromised by his unwitting involvement in a plot to repair and activate a WWII-era doomsday device. It’s about technology, the physical nature of the world around us, family, and destiny vs. free will, with a bit of good old-fashioned heist-movie excitement. It is both very funny and forcefully intelligent, and the writing is more than occasionally quite beautiful, with big, elaborate sentences whose weight is supported only because they are balanced just so. You should read it.
Article: “Why the Old-School Music Snob Is the Least Cool Kid on Twitter” by Alexandra Molotkow
The basic argument of this article is that it is no longer cool to be the only one to know about a band or artist, because the internet has collapsed the distance between the underground and the overground. Everything is accessible to everyone, anywhere, anytime, and there is no reason to try to be ahead of the curve, because the sheer quantity and variety of things to listen to means you will always be missing something. So, the focus shifts from simply being aware of things to what you actually have to say about them.
I have since learned that the author of this piece is a friend of a friend of friend, and that there has been some backlash against it, suggesting that she is really just a music snob trying to find a new way of being a music snob. This conversation does not matter to me very much; I am more interested in the extent to which the basic argument is an apt description of the world. I conclude that, sadly, it is probably a bit overstated— if nothing else, the guys who work at Reckless Records have not gotten the memo about not feeling cooler than your customers because you listen to things they haven’t heard of. But I really want this to be true. As someone who grew up in a very small town with no record stores (mostly) in the pre-internet era—for whom magazine like SPIN and CMJ were the only way I ever heard about anything, unquestionably long after they were new to anyone who really had their ear to the ground— a vision of a world in which the cooler-than-thou record store guy is an anachronism is intensely appealing.
On a related note, that article also contains a link to this one: http://nplusonemag.com/54, which is kind of a history, kind of a critical essay on Pitchfork, and is also pretty interesting.
Video: “Dark Steering” by Squarepusher
This is the first single from Squarepusher’s forthcoming new album Ufabulum (out in the US on May 15). To start with, it sounds like classic Squarepusher, with crazy-fast bass guitar and skittering snares over hard, growling low end. Then, in the middle, it becomes surprisingly melodic and, even, anthemic. It makes me look forward to the new record more than I was, and I also really hope he does a tour in which the stage show looks like this video.